G is for Goodis, Dark Prince of Noir.

I know – you were thinking G was for Grafton, but as the Kinsey Milhone series already made an appearance in a recent post on the most prolific female detectives, I get to resume my Alphabet of Crime with one of my all time favorites: David Goodis.

Close your eyes and think of “Noir.” What do you see, hear, feel?

A hot, lonely city street, after midnight, after the rain. A pair of doomed lovers, trapped in each other’s arms. Plaintive minor notes echoing from a solo trumpet somewhere in the night, chords achingly unresolved, a call as seductive as the sleep of death. A fall; a plunge from the some fleeting promise of a better place, a better life, down, down to the inky depths of despair.

This is the kind of noir that David Goodis wrote. Not the gritty proletarian tragedies of James M. Cain or the sadistic depravities of Jim Thompson, but achingly lyrical jazz noir swelling and ebbing with dark and sensuous poetry. His words were like wounds on the page – wounds that will never heal. He wrote them fast and he wrote them cheap, and he died before the age of fifty. He’d had his brush with fame: Bogart and Bacall starred in a classic adaptation of his Dark Passage. French cinéastes lapped him up, adapting his books again, and again. Then he became a nobody, and then he was gone, the ghost of a forgotten melody lost down some dark alleyway, the silent memory of a song.

Now he’s back in a handsome new volume from the Library of America (whose fine Crime Novels collections included his 1950 novel Down There) featuring five of his most lurid, longing noirs. I think every crime fan should read at least one David Goodis; I suggest Dark Passage or Down There. To learn more about this quintessential voice of American noir, check out Shooting Pool with David Goodis, an excellent website devoted to his life and works.

Experiments with Fiction, Part 1

Find Tao Lin's eeeee_eee_eeee in the Seattle Public Library catalog.I recently read a strange little book by Tao Lin, called Eeeee Eee Eeee. It is fiction, a novel of sorts, although its characters are almost uniformly flat and disaffected (including the dolphins and the bears), anything resembling a plot dissolves after a few pages of slightly bored or mildly anxious introspection, and the language feels deeply repetitive. I would recommend it to you, but when all the usual crowd pleasers are missing, how can I?

Continue reading “Experiments with Fiction, Part 1”

Fear and Loathing in Seattle

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. ThompsonIt was forty years ago that Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came forth blinking and convulsing with manic, paranoid brilliance into the light, and what a long strange trip it’s been! Long acknowledged as a cult classic, as the decades pass by without lessening the immediacy and scathing volatility of Thompson’s drug-fuelled picaresque in quest of a bankrupt American Dream it is hard to resist labelling it as anything less than an out-and-out Great Book; Thompson, who had his earthly remains fired out of a cannon, seems to have come to rest in The Canon. So I at least maintained in a recent conversation with the Bushwick Book Club’s Seattle ChapterContinue reading “Fear and Loathing in Seattle”

Cult Classics: Against the Grain

Alternative to what? In a sea of sameness, the heroes of these cult classics march to the beat of their own drum.

Brautigan, Richard
Trout Fishing in America
Drifting along with the flow of time, spinning in revelatory eddies, or striding against the cultural mainstream, we search for that elusive perfect spot to catch a rainbow.

Kerouac, Jack
On the Road
To go adventuring into the crazy American night, raving like a loon, beatific and untouchable, not searching but finding, in constant motion: this was all.

Palahniuk, Chuck
Fight Club
Can’t sleep? Perhaps it is because you’ve never fully woken up. Tyler Durden has the solution, but brace yourself: this is going to hurt.

Thompson, Hunter S.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, attorney at law, head out on a trip or two to Vegas, home of the great American hallucination. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Toole, John Kennedy
A Confederacy of Dunces
Meet Ignatius J. Reilly, the grandiosely repellant bloviating buffoon whose jaw-dropping misadventures prove too much even for New Orleans.

Cult Classics: Into the Dark

Strange things lurk in dark places. Another helping of titles that our readers keep coming back for, year after year.

Andrews, V.C.
Flowers in the Attic
Shocking carnal secrets; torments of the body and the mind; for the Dollangangers, it’s all in the family. After 30 years, this lurid gothic tale is still going strong.

Burroughs, William
Naked Lunch
Welcome to Interzone, a bizarre and arbitrary dreamscape where nothing seems quite as it is, and reality writhes horribly at the end of every fork.

Danielewski, Mark
House of Leaves
Follow Johnny Truant as he is drawn into the labyrinthine shadows of this enormous and mystifying literary underworld, but beware: parts of you may never return.

Dunn, Katherine
Geek Love
Step right up! See the Siamese twin pianists! Arturo the flippered Aqua-boy! The mental giant and the tiny albino! The Binewskis are not your typical family, but then – whose is?

Lovecraft, H.P.
Tales
From out of the terrible abysm of endless night comes a weird hypnotic voice, conjuring forth some ancient evil in a forbidden language lost to time. The voice is Lovecraft’s.

What are some of your favorite cult classics?